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Jakarta Post

Myanmar orders Rohingya to leave tense border zone


    Agence France-Presse

Tombru, Bangladesh   /   Sun, May 20, 2018   /   08:22 pm
Myanmar orders Rohingya to leave tense border zone In this file photo taken on October 19, 2017 Rohingya refugees who were stranded walk near the no man's land area between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Palongkhali area next to Ukhia. Hundreds of desperate Rohingya Muslims still pour over the Myanmar border into Bangladesh camps every week, six months into the refugee crisis. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)

Myanmar security forces have resumed loudspeaker broadcasts near its border with Bangladesh ordering Rohingya Muslims to immediately leave a strip of no-man's land between the two countries, refugees said Sunday.

Around 6,000 refugees from the persecuted minority have been camping on the narrow stretch of land since fleeing a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's west last August.

The majority of the nearly 700,000 Rohingya who escaped the violence settled in huge camps in Bangladesh but a smaller number insisted on staying put in the buffer zone between the borders.

Myanmar had agreed in February to stop using loudspeakers to order the stranded Muslims to leave the area immediately and cross into Bangladesh.

The army also withdrew some of its heavy forces from the edge of no-man's land, where refugees camped on the other side of a barbed wire fence had complained of intimidation.

But the loudspeaker messages resumed this weekend without warning, Rohingya community leaders said, exacerbating tension along the restive border zone.

"They played it several times yesterday, and have been repeating it this morning. It's very disturbing and creates panic," said Mohammad Arif, one of the leaders camped in no-man's land.

The messages -- broadcast in Burmese and Rohingya -- warned the refugees to "leave the area under Myanmar's jurisdiction or face prosecution".

"We're citizens of Myanmar. It's our fatherland. We have every right to remain here. Why should we go elsewhere?" said another community leader, Dil Mohammad.

The broadcasts also refer to the refugees as "Bengalis", the term used by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refer to the Rohingya, whom they consider interlopers from Bangladesh.

Lieutenant Colonel Manzurul Hasan Khan, a local Border Guard Bangladesh commander, said the situation was being closely monitored.

"We have noticed that they tied loudhailers to the trees along their border fences near the camp," Khan said.

The refugee crisis has strained ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The neighbors had agreed in November to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar but the process has stalled, with both sides blaming each other for the delays.

Those living in no-man's land -- and many in the Bangladeshi refugee camps -- refuse to return to Myanmar until their safety and citizenship is assured and compensation granted for past injustices.